Sofia was the first wife that I’d interviewed. Her story is interesting for two reasons. The first is because I wanted ethnic diversity. She identifies as Latina and her ex-husband is part African. It was great to be able to show that marital challenges are cross-cultural. This story was also interesting because there are not many women who are willing to share details about intimacy with the world.
Concept: At the crux of this narrative is a sexless marriage. Sofia and Leo didn’t have sex for years. What caused the lack of sex was Leo’s infertility. This was the one story where I was able to show the husband’s innermost feelings. Leo’s reaction to his inability to produce sperm affected how he interacted for the remainder of their marriage. He once told Sofia, “If I would’ve found out it was you who was infertile, I would’ve left.” This is a direct quote. Whether it was because of gender or ethnicity, not being able to have sex and procreate was a big deal to Leo. It seemed to be what being a man and marriage was about for him.
But Leo wasn’t the only one who had a view of how marriage was supposed to go. Sofia did too. Another central part of the story was how much she enjoyed taking care of Leo’s needs. Because he was career military, he was always coming and going. Sofia enjoyed this. She helped him pack out to leave, and she helped him unpack when he returned. She cooked and assumed other duties that some of us might deem “old-fashioned.”
Commentary: I wanted to show how both Sofia and Leo had developed a societal stereotype about wives, husbands and marriage, and then lived out those ideas. Leo believed a husband was someone who could give his wife a baby, and if he couldn’t do that, then what was the point of being married, much less having sex? Is this the truth? I’m not a man and I’ve never been infertile, but I suppose if my gender identity was inextricably linked to my fertility, then where would that leave me? What would that make me?
The fact that Sofia stayed with Leo for years, even after his insensitive comment also struck me as odd. She explained that she was fine because she continued to do the part of marriage she liked: taking care of Leo. That was her focus. I suppose that can be marriage, but I’m not sure it’s a relationship. I’m not sure that a husband and wife can sleep separately, have no sex and be 100% happy. This is also why I categorized her experience as part of the “Detached Wife” section. It seemed that she was separated from the reality of her relationship.
What else stood out for you in this story? Do you think she should’ve been in another category? Is sex important for a marriage and/or relationship? Or am I trippin?
It’s not too late to order The Unhappy Wife here, so you can catch up. Next month, we have to skip Rhadiya, because she also signed a waiver that doesn’t allow me to discuss her story in public. And if you read the book, then you probably understand why! So we’ll move on to everyone’s second favorite wife, Miss Sharlene 😉